The Food and Drug Administration authorized children ages 5 to 11 to receive bivalent COVID-19 boosters Wednesday morning.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters received FDA approval and are awaiting authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pfizer-BioNTech said they are prepared to immediately ship boosters upon CDC approval.
The bivalent nature of the boosters means the vaccine will fight off both the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. The BA.4 and BA.5 variants account for 80% of the current COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement Wednesday that children should get the bivalent booster because resuming pre-pandemic school and extracurricular activities increases kids’ risk of exposure.
“While it has been largely the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, as the various waves of COVID-19 have occurred, more children have gotten sick with the disease and have been hospitalized,” Marks said in the statement. “Children may also experience long-term effects, even following initially mild disease.”
According to the FDA, children should wait at least two months after infection or receiving the COVID-19 vaccine to get a booster shot. This varies from the FDA’s recommendation for adults, who are instructed to wait at least three months. It takes approximately two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha has advised everyone to get a bivalent booster vaccine by Oct. 31 to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases over the holiday season, which the U.S. experienced last year.
"Don't wait," Jha said in a White House briefing Tuesday. "Get your new flu shot and get your new COVID shot today. If Americans did that, we could save hundreds of lives each day this winter."